Saturday, January 15, 2011

UNUM Is Still Doing It To the Disabled

UNUMProvident is the gigantic disability insurance company that operates in both the US and the UK.

In UK it advises the Work and Pensions department, a loose equivalent of the US Social Security Administration, on how to “limit liability” - a euphemism for “deny claims”.

According to ConsumerAffairs website on Nov. 13, 2002 UNUMProvident had 30% of the market for disability insurance, making it the largest provider in the US.

It has been rated as the second worst insurance company in the US. A survey of its policy holders found that 45% were either very dissatisfied (36%) or dissatisfied; 45% were “somewhat” (?) satisfied; 0% were very satisfied and 9% were satisfied. The 45% who were “somewhat” satisfied seem to be damning with faint praise. If you add them to the 45% who were dissatisfied you get 90% who were either neutral or negative vs the 9% who were either satisfied or very satisfied.

The above referenced rating included insurance companies that don't offer disability insurance, such as Allstate, the company that ranked worst. I speculate that if car and home owner insurance customers were eliminated from the survey, UNUMProvident would rank as the worst disability insurance provider.

In the last 8 years UNUMProvident has cleaned up its image but has it cleaned up its act?

In 2002 a class-action lawsuit was brought against them in NY. It alleged that UNUM was a “disability denial factory”. Documents provided by former employees disclosed that UNUM gave out a “Vulture Award” for the most claims denied. The lawsuit also alleged that the company used non-medical personnel to decide which claims to deny and then used its 100 on-staff doctors to create a paper trail to justify the decision.

It also came to light that prior to settling with insurance regulators in several states, they offered loans to their claims adjusters and then allowed them to pay off the loans with credits for money saved by denying claims. This ranks right up there with pimps getting hookers addicted to drugs and then controlling them by supplying the drugs, or Mafiosos loaning money and then coercing the borrower into their illegal activities in order to repay them.

Particularly fascinating, since in UK Works and Pensions has decreed that the neuroimmune disease ME/CFS is mental and not biological, is the case of the eye surgeon who developed a “phobia that caused his hands to shake” and couldn't do surgery anymore.

Dr. Randall Chapman had paid premiums for long term disability (LTD). UNUMProvident paid his claim for 3 months and then denied it, saying their doctors disagreed with that diagnosis.

A California jury awarded Dr. Chapman $31.7 million in damages in 2003. In Florida, Dr. John Tedesco, an ophthalmologist who developed Parkinson's disease won $36.7 million in federal court. UNUM then appealed and the cases were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts.

If this had happened in UK, would UNUM have offered these doctors GET (Guided Exercise Therapy), CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and antidepressants for six months and told them to go back to work?

In 2007 the BBC aired at least two reports on UNUM and the job it was doing at Works and Pensions, calling it a “rogue” company. I viewed those reports on YouTube. They can no longer be found on YouTube, nor can they be found by searching the BBC website. It's as if they never existed, but there are references to those broadcasts all over the web, so I know my memory is not playing tricks on me. One of them on YouTube now has an announcement that the up loader has “closed their YouTube account”.

CBS's 60 Minutes program with Ed Bradley reported on UNUM in 2002. Read the transcript for chilling conversations with former employees, including doctors, who say they were pressured to meet monthly income goals by denying claims. One doctor was fired for not complying. California's insurance commissioner called UNUM an “outlaw company”.

See this 2009 article “Denying Disability May Be Just One of UNUM's Profitability Tricks” for one legal firm's take on UNUM as an investment risk. It ends with “ probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for Unum to bank on honesty instead of smoke and mirrors for a change.” - referring to UNUM's investor relations.

Speaking of investors, I wish someone would ask Simon Wessely and the other ME/CFS denialists in UK whether they, their spouses, children or any other relatives own stock in UNUMProvident. Could this be why Myra McClure is "1000% sure" there is no XMRV in UK? Could this be why Wessely told the BMJ Podcast "The cause of CFS onset is irrelevant to management of the condition", and he would not treat viruses in CFS patients even if detected, because he is "in the business of rehabilitation". Commenting on a study that stated XMRV virus was found in two thirds of CFS patients, Wessely said this research "fails to model the role childhood abuse, psychological factors, and other infections may play in the illness".

Policyholders past and present allege that UNUMProvident claims to lose crucial documents from their doctors, their Congressional representatives and themselves. UNUM then denies claims, saying they didn't get the documents in the proper time frame or they didn't get them at all.

UNUM's strategy seems to be that losing in court is just a cost of doing business. It's like a license to steal from all those premium-paying, deniable little people in order to pay the disabled doctors and lawyers who can afford to take them to court, plus rewarding UNUM investors, and their CEO.

In 2009 UNUM's CEO Thomas Watjen received $8.79 million in compensation. Perhaps he deserves the biggest Vulture Award of all.


  1. "In the last 8 years UNUMProvident has cleaned up its image but has it cleaned up its act?"

    I don't think so.

    Patricia Carter

  2. UNUMProvident was hired to process the claims for my permanent health insurer. My claim went in in February and I've complied with every request for information - even exceeded some. I think they think if they delay for long enough they will starve me back to work. I paid into that damn policy for 12 years. I'd rather die making a public fuss than let them win.

  3. @ Anonymous - Makes you wonder whether it's time for another class action suit. If you click on "Policyholders" above, it takes you to a website where there are many pages of stories from 2010, similar to yours, including one where the adjuster claimed not to have received an email from the claimant's Congressman, but suddenly received it right while he was on the phone with the claimant. Many others tell of how UNUM says they never received documents from doctors and how doctors become alienated from their patients because of having to resend and resend. Don't let the Dastards grind you down, Anon.

  4. Great synopsis about the disgusting and sober truth about disability insurance companies. I seriously question how some of the people can sleep at night, knowing they're profiting by blatantly reneging on their policies and leaving disabled people in the poorhouse despite having insured themselves for this very contingency.


    The MEA have an article on the BBC show.

  6. Transcript of the BBC 10pm News, 6 Nov 2007

    Huw Edwards, anchor: A multinational insurance company accused of racketeering and cheating thousands of Americans out of welfare benefits, is giving advice to the British government on welfare reform. A BBC investigation has found that executives from Unum have held meetings with senior Whitehall officials to discuss changes to the benefit system. Mark Daley has this exclusive report.

    Mark Daley, presenter: US-based multi-national insurance giant, Unum, has shown a keen interest in UK welfare reform since the mid 1990s. This is Unum’s HQ in Portland in Maine. Unum are the worlds largest disability insurers with more than 25 million customers in the US alone. But in 2002, a series of whistle blowers came forward with damning allegations. Linda Nee was a claims handler for UnumProvident, as it was called then.

    Linda Nee: I was often placed in the position by a consultant who was my supervisor of denying a claim. Of telling me to deny a claim, or having a manager tell me to remove documentation from a claim so that an attorney would not have an opportunity to see it.

    Mark Daley, presenter: It was alleged that UnumProvident cheated tens of thousands of disabled Americans out of their rightful benefit claims. Many of them came from California. Joan Hangarter had her own business before falling ill.

    Joan Hangarter: An impartial, unanimous jury of 12 people, found that Unum had wrongfully terminated my benefits. They had lied, they had cheated, they had misrepresented the facts.

    Mark Daley, presenter: She was awarded 7.5 million dollars in damages. But allegations of racketeering persisted. Then in 2005, California Insurance commissioner, John Garamendi declared: “UnumProvident is an outlaw company. It is a company that for years has operated in an illegal fashion.” In a unique settlement signed by all 50 states, it was fined 23 million dollars, ordered to reopen 300,000 denied claims, at a cost of half a billion dollars.

    Peter Dewis, Unum customer services: I think the important thing to recognize is that those issues that were found in relation to the US claims management practices now belong to history. They were critically reviewed when the regulatory findings came out, a number of very important changes have been made. In the UK we reviewed all of our claims management practices and found ourselves not to be wanting in relation to anything that the US regulators were saying.

    Mark Daley, presenter: But, there are still dozens of bad faith cases and allegations out standing against the company on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite all this Unum had senior executives sitting on key Government working groups last year, and has provided detailed memorandum on transforming the benefits system. The Government also awarded grants worth 300,000 thousand pounds to Unum’s research centre in Cardiff.

    Ian Gibson, MP: I think the Government should have them in front of them in an open scrutiny process in Parliament, and we should ask them what their game is. Why it happened in the States first, could that not happen here if they have still got the same philosophy. There is some indication now that they haven’t changed that much. The leopard hasn’t changed its spots.

    Mark Daley, presenter: The BBC has discovered internal documents revealing that Unum believes it is driving Government policy. The Department for work and pensions refused to comment on Unum's past. A spokesman said: “Throughout the process of developing our policies…Ministers and officials have met and spoken to hundreds of organisations and individuals like Unum to find out what works.” As Unum attempt to leave its chequered past behind, the debate over UK welfare reform will rage on. Mark Daley BBC News.

    1. UK Disability recipients save yourselves! UNUM has become even more emboldened in the US –Surveillance has become huge here in the US and mandated home visits. No one is safe, even if you’ve been on Disability for years, approved by SSDI, they will look for anything!! and start tactics you thought impossible at this point , start all over again, all just to deny you no matter even if you have qualified for SSDI, which is not easy – they now data-mine social media like Facebook for any evidence – people have been denied for having a smile on their face in a photo. Does this sound like old practices are “History” – I think not! They are investing in sophisticated technology to enhance any chance of denial. Stop it before it becomes the ‘beast’ it has here.

    2. Unfortunately, they are aleady doing it to the disabled in UK. Disgraceful! The sickness of greed is apparently untreatable.

  7. Thanks, Anon. Unum put up L1.6 million (pounds)(currently about $2.5 million USD) in 2007 to start a psuedo-university department dedicated to "psychosocial" research into illnesses that keep people from working.

    They haven't been able to convince the majority of people with ME/CFS that they're only suffering from "illness beliefs", so they are out to convince doctors of it, thus removing the only possible safeguard patients had have against the agenda Unum has - get people off disability even if it kills them.

    From their 2007 press release: "The new Centre will be looking at the doctor/patient relationship and how this affects an individual's reaction to their illness. Studies to be conducted at the Centre in Cardiff will focus on why people respond differently to the same illness, rendering some unable to work while others continue."

    In other communications, Unum has said that private doctors who sign off on disability claims need to be "re-educated" to be more in line with what their own doctors or DWP doctors do in UK.

    It sounds a lot like former CDC mind-body researcher Bill Reeves' association with Emory and its mind-body program. Reeves is no longer using CDC's Chronic Viral Diseases Branch research money to try to morph ME/CFS into an "illness belief". He's moved over to "Mental Health Surveillance" - whatever that is.

    It must be just a coincidence that UNUM is the biggest provider of "income protection" insurance in both the US & UK and parts of both governments have been hijacked by their agenda.

  8. Hi Oerganix.. have you seen this?:

    "Unum – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Another “Collaborative Strategy”" by Linda Nee

  9. Thanks DzD. I had not seen this, but it looks like we're on the same page.

    I'll be doing another post on Unum soon.

  10. I think the NOTW paper from Murdochs News Corps stable, shows execatly how the gov suck up to the people they need.

    The corruption is institutionalised and many that commit these crimes, are oblivious to the misery they cause, they are all just doing their job, they all just need their next paycheck.

    The culture of fear over job security is breeding competitive immorality, how low will you go?

    If they had not been promoting yes men, then perhaps some of the senior officers in the MET would have had the balls to say, look Mr PM, we don't have the resources or legal ability to investigate this case thoroughly.

    But no they have yes men, and the yes men will keep saying yes, becasue they want the money.

    But little old joe public can be told NO NO NO NO time and time again.

    Who is really spending the tax payers money, what about tax loop holes, and tax havens, bank bail outs.

    Well if they did that they wouldnt get their stake money would they.

    No, lets take more form joe public, that way Cameron can stand on his international stage and feel talll coz HE gave £££££££ in international aid.

    ooops sorry for being ranty, great blog post.

    1. Rant on - the Disabled are viewed as a mere nuisance in the Big Picture of rampant government corruption- sadly, we are often not even considered and viewed as easily dismissed.

  11. Hi..I am Jamie..go to my website right now at On behalf of my very sick mother and THOUSANDS of others like her,I started a petition to be soon PUBLICALLY displayed at an ANTI-UNUM parade rally..we are asking business' to Cancel UNUM's contracts..STOP BUYING FROM THE WORST! Buy only from TOP rated insurance companies with low consumer complaints. They did not even pay for 1 year LTD benefits after lies and NO NOTICE..only a few days..they cut her off. She has & DISABELING diseases..and MUCH's letters sent in advance stating about her disabiliy! She has herniated disc..back surgery with rods and screws..Addison's disease..a INOPERABLE tilted and twisted pelvis..several nerves damaged..migraines..a rare INCUREABLE sleep disorder called ' idiopathic hypersomnia" and STILL more things wrong. If they do not pay her even 1 years worth of benefits..who do they pay? We need to demand MORE for ur money NOW. JOIN NOW! WE need all the help we can me to with your stories and our website..HELP NOW before they shut us down..more to come about PUBLIC RALLY. URGENT CALL for donations too.UNUM has millions to fight with.. WE DON'T! If you don't help..we won't be here much longer..they will fight us aggresively..they DO NOT want to lose even one contract. Even if you ONLY can send 1 all helps. WE HAVE TO FIGHT! We also more much more coming..being planned..stayed tuned to website!You can mail donation ..also send signatures to make check or money oder to bringthemdown and mail to 226 N. Mckenzie Adrian Mi 49221 TODAY! Thank you.

  12. This is a great blog post. As someone who suffers from disabilities, I find myself constantly stressing to others the importance of doing as much research as possible when considering Disability Insurance. For me, life was running smoothly until I hit my mid-20's; when I was diagnosed, I found out quickly how much is out of your control. I always thought my health was something I'd never have to worry about. Sometimes you just can't predict what will happen tomorrow; but being prepared and expecting the unexpected are the most important (and cliche!) things I've found to ease the tensions caused by those curve-balls life seems to LOVE throwing at us. Thanks again for the post!

  13. Thanks MasterShake 13. Be sure to look at Linda Nee's blog (she is a former claims adjuster for Unum). She now supports claimants of all the disability insurers.

  14. Please see:

    for detailed evidence against UNUM and

    Together, we will expose this US imported medical tyranny.

    Kind regards
    Mo Stewart

  15. Ad me to the list of the UNUM screwed insured. A hernidated disk in neck with bone spur compression spinal cord; a statement from doctor that I must not work for danger of permenant nerve damage; and at the 2 year UNUM review, they just cancelled my policy on grounds their "in house' doctors do not agree. wow